Judge Who Sent 500+ Texts During Murder Trial Resigns

DA had called Traci Soderstrom's behavior 'shocking'
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 21, 2023 1:30 AM CDT
Updated Feb 9, 2024 12:05 PM CST
Video Shows Judge Scrolling Her Phone During Murder Trial
Stock photo.   (Getty Images / Michal Chodyra)
UPDATE Feb 9, 2024 12:05 PM CST

An Oklahoma judge caught on surveillance footage texting, scrolling through Facebook, and sending GIFs, all while she was presiding over a trial regarding the beating death of a toddler, has stepped down from the bench, per the AP. A proposed settlement was filed Thursday agreeing that Lincoln County District Judge Traci Soderstrom would resign and never vie again for a judicial office in the state. Soderstrom's resignation goes into effect at 5pm local time on Friday, per the Oklahoman.

Jul 21, 2023 1:30 AM CDT

An Oklahoma judge is under scrutiny after courtroom cameras revealed her surreptitiously scrolling her smartphone during a trial regarding the 2018 beating death of a 2-year-old boy. The Oklahoman obtained security videos from the courtroom, which show Lincoln County District Judge Traci Soderstrom texting, looking at Facebook, and sending GIFs during the trial of Khristian Tyler Martzall, 32, who was accused in the death of his then-girlfriend's toddler, Braxton Danker. Prosecutors wanted him found guilty of murder, but he was ultimately found guilty of second-degree manslaughter and sentenced to time served. The DA, who viewed the surveillance video after a tip from courthouse personnel, calls Soderstrom's behavior "shocking and disappointing."

At the start of the seven-day trial, the judge had warned jurors to either turn their phones off or put them in airplane mode while in the courtroom: "This will allow you to concentrate on the evidence without interruption," she said. However, the video shows her on her phone "for minutes at a time," per the newspaper, during jury selection, opening statements, and testimony. She held it below the top of the judge's bench so that it couldn't be seen. She wouldn't comment, when reached by the paper, due to the fact that the verdict in the case could still be appealed and judges aren't allowed to discuss pending cases. The camera in the courtroom was moved Monday, apparently at her request, so that it no longer points directly down at the judge's bench. See the full story at the Oklahoman. (More Oklahoma stories.)

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